Kingston, NY: Marueen Cummins, 2023. Hardcover. One of 30 copies. Foetus Envy is a grim and satirical look at the present state of reproductive rights in this country. Conceived of and produced by Cummins, with typographical assistance from Kathleen McMillan, the book imagines an alarming new mental illness, “Foetus Envy,” which turns otherwise cheerful, angelic, and biologically fit wives into “Resistant Mothers,” women who do not wish to procreate and stubbornly refuse to accept the naturally superior powers, privileges, and legal protections of their unborn offspring. Cummins references language from Aeschylus to fugitive slave laws to faux scientific texts to locate our present moment within a long history of reproductive control and coercion. The book is written in the style of eugenics texts published in the early-to-mid twentieth century by the now-infamous Eugenics Publishing Company. Cummins’s primary inspiration, from which she based her images, is the 1919 text, Sane Sex Life and Sane Sex Living, which reads more like a sex manual for men than the guide for married couples that it purports to be. In the quotes below from Sane Sex Life, so eerily like phrases heard on the Fox News channel, it’s not difficult to see the relationship between the eugenics movement of a century ago and the contemporary Christian right: No two normal men can make a home! No two normal women can make a home! It takes a man and a woman to make a home! It takes father, mother and children to make the most perfect home. Make up your minds to have a most perfect home and do your utmost to reach that goal! ….all sane and intelligent men and women agree that anything even approaching infanticide is nothing short of a crime, and that abortion, except for the purpose of saving the life of the mother, is practically murder. In her re-created eugenics text, Cummins mimics the badgering, preachy style of Sane Sex Living, while making liberal use of “alternative facts” and sanctimonious, moralizing language. Similarly, the artist plays with her imagery: the Caduceus logo on the title page is made up of entwining sperm, not snakes; the pattern on the slipcase, which appears to depict sun rays, is, on closer inspection, a swarm of sperm rushing to impregnate an ovum. While these surface elements of Foetus Envy are playful enough, the mood of the book grows increasingly grave, culminating in one final, terrifying image, of a woman entrapped within a womb, the ultimate example of a Ro(l)e Reversal. Foetus Envy was set in Bodoni Roman and printed letterpress onto Surface Gampi paper. Over one hundred silkscreen runs were required to print the accompanying images. Bound in faux leather with a gold-stamped title. The book is housed in a handsome cloth-covered slipcase. Size: 9.5 x 7 x 1 inches. 35 pages. A note from Maureen about the book and proper handling: “Two things to note about the book: the paper that I used, Surface Gampi, handmade and imported from Japan, contains tiny bits of fiber; these are natural and not imperfections in any way. Also, for ease of reading, and so that the accordion book lays flat, you may need to shift the text block on the right to meet the pages on the left. The final page is meant to remain under the flap until viewed.”. Fine.
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Kingston, NY: Maureen Cummins, 2022. 1 of 30 copies. A delightful play upon the traditional catalogue raisonné, this book makes visual reference to scrapbooks, archives, and exhibitions. The text, which culminates in a list of works printed from 1985 to 2021, is comprised of one-page vignettes that speak to a variety of subjects: growing up with books, the artist's early art training and interest in book illustration, apprenticeships and early projects, the influence of travel, research, and history in her practice, and a variety of topics which illuminate - for students, researchers, and collectors alike - the nature and scope of an artist’s life. The text of Retrospective is juxtaposed against a variety of images: actual and reproduced bookpages; a diary page from age 18 describing Cummins's desire to be a book illustrator; documentation of early art projects, edited-out images from editions; and photographs of seminal places in her career, including the Yolla Bolly Press, where she apprenticed; her first printshop, in Brooklyn; the American Antiquarian Society, where she was an artist-in-residence, and Kinngait Studios, a printshop in the Eastern Arctic that she made a pilgrimage to. The structure of the book is staggered pages which fan out like a card deck, allowing the reader to see a slice of each image simultaneously. This presentation creates a blur of color and pattern that invites the reader to explore. Housed in a wooden box that was specially designed and crafted by Jim Lee. The box contains a side piece which lifts up for easy access to and handling of the book. The cover of the box, constructed out of plexiglass and laser-etched by Sarah Pike, allows the book to be displayed even when it is safely stored. Size: 8.5 x 32 inches. 66 pages.
Maureen Cummins, 2016. Hardcover. Number 34 of 40 copies. Signed the artist. In this powerful work, noted book artist Maureen Cummins investigates the dark side of the history of psychosurgery, as exemplified by the career of Doctor Walter Freeman (1895-1972), a professor of neurology who became known as the father of lobotomy by single-handedly popularizing the pre-frontal lobotomy in America. Although he had no formal training in either surgery or psychology, Freeman modified the traditional procedure for lobotomies by driving ice picks through his patients’ eye sockets rather than drilling into the skull to sever nerve connections in the prefrontal cortex to treat mental illness. Despite his championing of his procedure he admitted that lobotomies often created childlike behavior or a vegetative state in patients. Hundreds of patients died. The controversial procedure also raised numerous questions about patients’ rights, the abuse of institutional power, and the disproportionate targeting of women. Of the more than 3000 patients that Freeman operated on, two-thirds were women. Cummins uses physical rape as an analogy for neurological penetration, a form of sexualized violence that was perpetuated for decades in the name of medical progress. She visualizes this by a series of laser cut holes that bore through each page, becoming smaller page by page.The holes penetrate reproduced images of lobotomy patients’ heads and on the last page the title “The Rapist” becomes “Therapist?” The images of women are from 'before-and-after” photos used in Freeman’s textbook, which are re-contextualized, with lines of typography serving as blindfolds, reclaiming for these women a measure of dignity, humanity, and anonymity. The pages of the book are laser-cut aluminum with silkscreen-printed text and imagery. The covers are also laser-cut aluminum with a large hole that reveals the subsequent holes and "The" and "rapist" on either side of the cover's hole. The pages are attached to the cover by two ring binders. Housed in an aluminum box with a metal title label affixed to the top. In fine condition. 16 pages. 24” x 9” x 1” open 12” x 9” x 1 closed. ARTISTSB/100419. Fine.
Maureen Cummins, 2018. Number 17 of 35 copies signed and numbered by the book artist, Maureen Cummins. Secretary deconstructs the life and death-by-suicide of the artist's mother, Dolores Cummins, a brilliant woman, aspiring artist, and housewife for twenty-five years. It is this story that inspired Cummins's later book Crazy Quilt, as well as all the subsequent work that she created around marginalized populations. This book is the first of several around this common theme that Maureen has become well-known for. Secretary is made even more powerful by the structure and composition. It was letterpress printed on sheets of Asian lined paper resembling a steno pad, with titling redacted by hand in graphite. The type used appears to have been typed on an old typewriter. Each section of the book is preceded by a ghostly photographic image of Cummins's mother from that period of her life, reprinted from originals in the artist's possession. The text pages are bound in the style of a stenographer's notepad. It is housed in a stiff grey paper folder. Maureen Cummins is a noted creator of artists' books. Her work is held in over one hundred permanent public collections internationally and has been included in exhibitions at the American Craft Museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Rotunda Gallery (amongst others). She has received over a dozen grants and awards and has been an artist-in-residence at numerous venues, including the American Antiquarian Society and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. In fine condition. Measures 8.75 x 14.5 inches. ARTB/100119.
Mt. Tremper, NY: Maureen Cummins, 2019. One of 20 copies signed and numbered by the book artist. A striking work by well known book artist Maureen Cummins. She produced this work as part of Swarthmore College's Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary Project, with major support by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. Additional support was provided by the Lang Center for Social Rsponsibility, the William J. Cooper Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The project brought five artists into conversation with Syrian and Iraqi individuals resettled in Philadelphia. Cummins interviewed four participating families in 2018. The text of this book was compiled based on interviews that she conducted with three of the resettled Middle Eastern refugees and their families. The power of this work is that most of the texts of the interviews were heavily redacted to protect the families and their relatives still in the Middle East. Anonymous was typed by the artist using a vintage Smith-Corona typewriter, then later redacted by hand with water based black ink. The loose sheets are held in a commercially produced clip board with metal covers with the title in black on the front cover. Measures 9 x 13.25 inches. In fine condition. Unpaginated [9 pages] ARTISTSB/012120. Fine.